Fundraiser to Aid High Sierra’s Earl McKee

Big Earl McKee of the High Sierra Jazz Band (photo by Amy Heintz)
Big Earl McKee of the High Sierra Jazz Band (photo by Amy Heintz)

Earl McKee, the Singing Cowboy with the High Sierra Jazz Band, has been dealing with some serious health issues that have required major medical expenses. His friends in the jazz community who have enjoyed his sousaphone, mellow vocals and great stories have set up an on-line fundraising campaign (www.gofundme/friends-of-big-earl) to raise $20,000 to assist in covering medical bills and prescriptions that Earl’s insurance does not.

Rosie Brooks Conway, who initiated the campaign on behalf of the family, provides the following background: “Earl recently developed a major infection in his replacement knee and thigh bone and is currently going through the first of three phases that will lead to recovery. He underwent major surgery in which the infected knee replacement was removed and replaced with a temporary antibiotic knee implant. It also involved the implementation of a peripherally-inserted central catheter (PICC) to administer six weeks of ongoing antibiotics.”

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“Phase 2 requires a second major surgery to remove the antibiotic knee in exchange for a full-knee replacement. The final phase calls for rehab and physical therapy over several months of recovery.”

“Because the implanted PICC line medications require a nurse or caregiver to administer, Earl has been unable to find a skilled nursing facility that will accept him. Home Care insurance is restricted to weekly visits by a nurse and bi-weekly sessions with a physical therapist. It also does not cover the rental of IV equipment, some medications and the day-to-day cost of a caregiver. The Three Rivers Lions Club has helped out by donating a hospital bed, wheelchair and other medical accessories.”

In acknowledging the fundraising effort, Earl McKee wrote, “I have been down with this awful infected knee joint for four months and will continue to be laid up until my next surgery for the knee replacement on May 2nd. Then, if all goes well, I’ll begin physical therapy to get walking again. I humbly appreciate this amazing gesture on behalf of a guy when he is down. I didn’t know about the campaign. I never expected it, and I never would have accepted it if not for the insistence of my family and close friends. Your donations will help pay for medical needs and care that Medicare and my insurance will not cover. I am eternally grateful.”

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One of the original members of the High Sierra Jazz Band dating back to 1976, Earl McKee is a livestock rancher who raises cattle and quarter horses on the family mountain range and home site in Three Rivers, California. His signature cowboy hat is not just a fad, but a standard part of his daily wear.

Earl can play several stringed instruments such as bass, guitar and violin, as well as the big bore brass horns. He is a stickler for the correct “bottom line” notes, and as a result, plays all the right changes, contributing significantly to that “High Sierra sound.” Earl’s singing voice, which has such a wide range that it could be described as either baritone or tenor, is unequalled in any jazz band.

So let’s pitch in and get Big Earl back in the saddle and back on the bandstand.
– Lew Shaw

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